Monday, February 1, 2010

Gopher Hoops Embarrassed in Columbus

Ohio State honored its 1960 NCAA Championship team at halftime of Sunday's game with the Gopher basketball team and played inspired basketball throughout, defeating the Gophers 85-63 and dropping the maroon and gold to 4-5 in Big Ten play.

The Gophers shot a respectable 51% from the floor, but Ohio State's torrid 63% shooting carried the day. After being relatively ineffective the first time the two teams met earlier this month at Williams Arena, all-Big Ten guard Evan Turner paced Ohio State with 19 points and 8 assists in this game. William Buford scored a season-high 26 points for OSU, highlighted by a 4-5 performance from three-point territory. Jon Diebler also had 19 points for the Buckeyes.

Rodney Williams had 13 points off the bench for the Gophers to lead the team in scoring. Ralph Sampson III had 11, and Damian Johnson and Blake Hoffarber each had 10. The Gophers turned the ball over 17 times and allowed OSU to shoot lights-out the entire game. The Gophers had been the Big Ten's leading defensive team going into the game, limiting opponents to 36% shooting.

The month of January ends with the Gophers sitting at 13-8 overall and 4-5 in the Big Ten. They are clearly going to have to go on a serious run to have any shot at an NCAA Tournament berth this season. A winnable road game lies ahead next Saturday at Penn State, followed by Michigan at home; two games the Gophers should win. A 10-8 record will not likely assure a tournament bid this season, so that means the Gophers will have to win at least seven of the remaining nine games to have a realistic shot at the big dance. That is highly unlikely, even though the Gophers are done with both Ohio State and Michigan State. Therein lies a problem: the team has no "signature win," making a seven-of-nine streak may indeed be necessary to get in. Purdue and Wisconsin are remaining home games, and certainly would qualify for solid victories. However, wins against either of those squads seem like long-shots at this point.

It's a bit too early to think about a serious run for the Gophers, who have seen off-the-court issues derail a promising season. The experienced core of this team has the potential to make a solid run, but it seems unlikely for yet another game-to-game University of Minnesota winter sport.

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